NWU-Pukke won their fourth SARU National Club Championship title in eight years when they beat the University of Johannesburg 19-14 in a tense final played at the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch on Friday.
The Potchefstroom students, who were given little chance heading into the tournament, after a disappointing FNB Varsity Cup campaign and a semi-final loss to Raiders in the Golden Lions’ Predator League, showed that they are nevertheless past masters of tournament rugby.
In the first-ever final between the two teams in the competition’s 37-year history, Puk’s heroes were scrumhalf Jean Tiedt, who nervelessly kicked 14 points by way of four penalties and a conversion, and left wing Johannes Seerane, who scored the deciding try of a tightly-contested match after having scored a brace in their 39-36 semi-final win over hosts Maties.
Seerane was deservedly named backline player of the tournament for his efforts.
In the first final since 2007 to feature two university teams, and the first since 2004 between two northern-union teams, UJ enjoyed a slender 8-6 lead at the break, thanks to a try from wing Lolo Waka and a penalty from Luan Steenkamp.
But the Johannesburg students, who were aiming for a third trophy in 2011 after winning the Golden Lions’ Pirates Grand Challenge and Predator Leagues, could not convert their chances when it mattered despite dominating upfront.
UJ, who ended defending champions College Rovers’ two-year unbeaten run in the semi-finals, when they held on for a nailbiting 27-26 victory, did however have the consolation of having lock Marnus van Huyssteen and eighthman Justin Wheeler announced as forward and overall player of the tournament respectively.
In the Plate competition, Shimlas withstood a late onslaught from Boland champions Roses United to run out 48-26 winners and so claim their third consecutive title.
Forward Player of the Tournament: Marnus van Huyssteen (UJ)
Backline Player of the Tournament: Johannes Seerane (Pukke)
Player of the Tournament: Justin Wheeler (UJ)
UJ 14 – Try: Lolo Waka. Penalties: Luan Steenkamp (3).
Pukke 19 – Try: Johannes Seerane. Conversion: Jean Tiedt. Penalties: Tiedt (4).
Shimlas 48 – Tries: Henk Eksteen (2), Shaun Blignaut (3), Erik le Roux (2), Gerrit Theron. Conversion: Reinhardt Erwee (4).
Roses United 26 – Tries: Clinton Oncker, Angelo Booyse, Ashton Constant, Geoffrey Allies. Conversions: Jacquin Jansen (3).
College Rovers 26 UJ 27
Maties 36 Pukke 39
Shimlas 85 Noordelikes 0
Roses United 40 Progress 27
College Rovers 44 Winter Rose 6
Maties 43 Tuks 22
UJ 41 Welkom Rovers 20
Pukke 37 Park 14
Shimlas 29 SK Walmers 15
Roses United 40 Middelburg 22
Noordelikes 29 Springs 27
Progress 22 Kimberley Police 12
UJ 91 Noordelikes 21
Park 28 Progress 27
Shimlas 12 Winter Rose 18
Springs 36 Welkom Rovers 40
Pukke 117 Kimberley Police 0
Roses United 22 Tukkies 39
Maties 61 Middelburg 20
College Rovers 46 SK Walmers 0